The NFL's worst kept secret now is the Miami Dolphins are going to sign a left tackle in free agency. And it's also no secret that if Baltimore LT Eugene Monroe is available, the Dolphins will chase him. They will also chase Kansas City LT Branden Albert and hoope to land one of the two.
But as the Dolphins have four open offensive line spots and not just one, it must dawn on folks that the free agency derby that starts Monday is going to include at least one and perhaps two more workhorse linemen.
Because even if the Dolphins land Monroe or Branden Albert or some other left tackle, they cannot play a game with just that player and center Mike Pouncey. And believing the Dolphins can go into the draft and pick three linemen to fill the other spots is not very football savvy.
One does not simply draft three rooks, count on all of them to come in and learn the offense, learn the nuances of the game, be good enough to start, and then become cohesive and effective all while playing under a head coach whose record through two seasons suggests he's not fond of starting rookies other than Ryan Tannehill.
So veteran shopping beyond Monroe et al. the Dolphins must go.
The problem with that?
The free agency market at guard and right tackle is not exactly teeming with great possibilities.
There are a couple of good possibilities. But not great.
The guard market is so depressing that Richie Incognito would be the catch of the group were it not for his emotional problems and history. John Jerry will also be in that group and I suppose the Dolphins could bring him back -- if they don't want to upgrade, and don't mind mediocre play, and don't have a problem with him being a key player in the harassment scandal the past couple of years.
Assuming the Dolphins do want to upgrade there are a couple of guards that offer that chance:
Chad Rinehart, 29, showed himself a valuable, tough inside presence for the Chargers last season. He was battling a nagging toe injury much of the year but still showed up on Sunday and did OK work. Obviously, the Dolphins need to do their homework on the injury and decide how much that really limited Rinehart's play. Rinehart graded out slightly better than Jerry but, again, he was hurt, Jerry was healthy and there's the other stuff hovering over Jerry.
Geoff Shwartz, 27, is the brother of Cleveland Browns tackle Mitchell Shwartz and he became a very pleasant surprise for the Chiefs when he took over at right guard for them last year. Shwartz was previously the backup right tackle but when he stepped over to RG the Chiefs got better pass protection from the position. His run-blocking in adequate. (Hey, I"m not saying pay the guy like he's Jahri Evans).
(Peanut gallery: But Mando, we watched the playoffs and the Super Bowl and saw the Broncos have this guard Zane Beadles and he's a free agent. The guy played on a good team so he must be good. Let's get him!)
I was coming to him, gallery. He is a free agent -- like the others, unless he re-signs -- and he was good enough to start on a very good team. And he was good in 2012. But in his contract year, Beadles didn't shine. He was the No. 51-rated guard, according to ProFootballFocus.com. And while the metrics site is not the Bible and thus inerrant, it is widely recognized Beadles didn't play up to his previous heights last year despite being surrounded by Super Bowl talent.
So what happens if he's surrounded by non-playoff talent? What happens if he expects Tannehill to get rid of the ball like Peyton Manning but Tannehill is still holding the ball like, well, Ryan Tannehill?
Maybe he steps up to previous form. But would the Dolphins want to pay the premium Beadles is going to want to bet on a good answer to that question?
I'm thinking Rinehart and Schwartz have a lower ceiling but their asking price is also going to be much, much lower than Beadles'.
That addresses the guard possibilities. Obviously, there are a couple of right tackle possibilities.
The best of those is probably Austin Howard of the New York Jets. He played quite well for the NYJ last year and that team does not want to lose him.
But there's a market for a 26-year-old, athletic, two-year starter, who happened to handle being in New York well.
Also, adding him would mean weakening the Jets.
The other accomplished right tackle on the market is Zach Strief, who is actually a better player than Howard but is mentioned second here because he wants badly to return to New Orleans and the Saints want him as well.
Stief gave up only three sacks in over 1,000 snaps last season and that caused PFF.com to rate him right along with Drew Brees as the highest-graded Saints offensive player. Remember, if you will, Jimmy Graham also played on the Saints offense so this is a big deal.
Strief comes with the added value that he is a leader. And the Dolphins are looking for that. Strief was one of his team’s offensive captains and is known to be a top lockerroom leader.
Obviously, Strief prefers to stay with a Super Bowl contender and at a place where he's already comfortable. But at 30 years old, he must understand this will probably be his last big contract opportunity.
And the Saints, like most teams with a highly paid quarterback, don't have a lot of flexibility within their cap.